With the All-Star Break upon us and the trade deadline getting closer, the Bullpen Report will look a little different over the next few days but stay along for the ride we dive into the world of trade rumors and how that might affect some of the bullpens in baseball.
• Huston Street has always been a solid reliever when healthy and surprise, surprise he’s having a fantastic year for the Padres this year, pitching to a 2.61 xFIP and a career high 12.00 K/9, en route to representing the Padres in this years All-Star Game. Street might not be pitching much longer in San Diego however, with the Padres 13 games behind the Dodgers and the team looking to sell some of its pieces, as well as the team itself. Relievers are often traded at the deadline and Street might just be the best of the available bunch, giving the Padres a nice piece to dangle as we approach the trade deadline.
The latest rumors have the Cardinals getting involved, with the Padres having a representative at Busch Stadium last week and scout planned to check out the Cardinals top affiliates this week. Additionally, Street, who is aware of all the trade talks, has said that he prefers to remain closing if traded. While the majority of relievers that are dealt won’t become the new closer on their next team, Street is the best available and has the greatest chance to keep his job (and value) if traded. But, as well as Street has pitched this year, it’s important to remember that he’s a fly ball pitcher playing in a park (Petco) that suppresses home runs. Street has been an effective closer outside of Petco before, and should be again, but owners expecting him to keep his 1.13 ERA would be foolish to do so.
Whether Street is traded to the Cardinals, whose bullpen has the second worst WAR in baseball (-0.7), or not, Street is definitely likely to be traded with Luke Gregerson expected to take over the ninth inning duties. Andrew Cashner would be considered a dark horse candidate, but he will miss a month with a lat strain and will continue his transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation when he returns.
• If the Diamondbacks are serious about trading Justin Upton, you have to believe that they would be serious about trading their closer J.J. Putz, right? The Diamondbacks are only four games out of first place so there is obviously an incentive to keep the team together for the next couple of weeks, but they also have a fantastic replacement for Putz in David Hernandez who has a 3.26 xFIP and strikes out 36.3% of the batters he’s seen this year, the sixth highest rate for any qualified reliever in baseball this year.
J.J. Putz has a high ERA this year (4.50) but that doesn’t tell the entire story (does it ever?) as his 3.47 xFIP and 9.32 K/9 illustrate the solid reliever that teams would like to acquire to bolster their bullpen. Putz has a bit of a checkered injury history but he’s also pitched in 60 games the previous two seasons and has pitched in 29 games in 2012. While the high ERA and injury history might cause some hesitation in acquiring Putz, his salary is pretty cheap ($4.5 million) and comes with a $6.5 million club option for 2013, so he’s not just a three month rental. The Cardinals want to improve their pen, and if they don’t want to start a closer controversy (Street prefers to close) they could be a player for Putz. The Mets have also been rumored to want to bolster their relief and Putz could be an intriguing option for them as well. The next few weeks will be very telling for the Diamondbacks – if they start to slip look for Putz to be traded and look to pick up David Hernandez for saves in your league.
• The Mets are rumored to be interested in adding some bullpen depth but they will not add a reliever or any piece at the expense of one of their top prospects. Keeping that in mind with the fact that the Mets are overachieving this year, I wouldn’t expect the Mets to be players for the top relief talent available and instead foresee Sandy Alderson and co. being interested in relievers with a cheap price tag . The Mets have Frank Francisco signed for next year and Bobby Parnell, who is filling in for Frank², has looked promising, limiting his walks from 4.09 BB/9 in 2011 to a 2.10 BB/9 this year, adding up to a 3.10 xFIP combined with a fantastic 55.2% GB%. The Mets bullpen could use some help but they don’t figure to gain a new closer and of the names that Jon Heyman mentioned as rumored targets, I picture them taking a gander at Grant Balfour or Brandon Lyon type over the the more sexy relievers like Huston Street and Jonathan Broxton.
• Speaking of Jonathan Broxton, while he’s not particularly sexy in the normal sense of the word, he does have a 1.99 ERA, throws hard (94.9 mph) and has experience closing games which is certainly intriguing to general managers in need of bullpen help. The Royals entered 2012 with Joakim Soria as the closer and boat load of solid, young bullpen talent, so the signing of Broxton (1 year/$4 million) had to be considered as a de facto lottery ticket that they would hope to cash in at the deadline. Well, it’s now July and Broxton is pitching well and although Soria is out for the season recovering from Tommy John surgery, they still have a ton of young bullpen talent in Greg Holland, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera and Aaron Crow.
As recently as last week the Royals were thinking they could be buyers and “badly want to win games in the second half“. Every team wants to win games in the second half but when the Royals are 9.5 games out of first and 10 games below .500, it’s time that they cash in on their Jonathan Broxton lottery ticket. Many teams in need of some bullpen help including the Cardinals and Giants might see what it will take to get Broxton and although the Royals may be stubborn about trading him, Broxton is a free agent next year and it’s in their best interest to get any future piece for him that they can this year. If Broxton is traded, the Royals have many options from which to choose their new closer but I would put my money on Greg Holland. Holland was in the running to start the season as closer and his 3.05 xFIP and 13.35 K/9 would do just fine in that role if Broxton is traded.
[Green light, yellow light, red light: the colors represent the volatility of the bullpen order.]